What is social listening and should I be doing it?

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With over 7.5 billion people in the world, over 3 billion of those are active on social media.

Social media is not only an extension of our businesses and personal relationships, it’s becoming an extension of the world.

And with most brands now actively marketing across social media platforms, there’s certainly something valuable in the way brands interact with customers across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…to name a few.

Think about the brands that get it right. This will be different for most individuals since our online behaviour and preferences vary. But there will likely be one or two brands you can personally recall that you could say are ‘nailing it’. You feel as though they speak your language, they’re attuned with your needs, and they often address your challenges and needs before you even know you had them.

How exactly are they aligning their content, their language and their activity to their followers’ expectations so proficiently and accurately?

Just think about it. As a brand, your customers, prospects and even competitors’ customers are all having conversations and interacting across social media platforms. If you pay attention, all of your much-needed research, insight and data are there for the taking.

Social listening – not to be confused with social monitoring – is the act of extracting information from conversations and interactions among your customers online. Social listening delves deeper than social monitoring, as it helps you uncover further insights into the online behaviours of your customers, therefore driving your strategy in the right direction.

These conversations and this data will help you to uncover emerging trends, tune into brand sentiment, better understand your target demographics, their language, terminology, enabling you to better connect. And that’s what we know today as social listening.

Social media listening is also crucial in helping you maximise your brand’s reputation.

A social listening strategy will require you to collect and analyse a large amount of data, most of that qualitative – so it’s important that before you start out you outline your metrics and goals.

What exactly do you wish to extract from your social media platforms; what insight, which information? What is it you’re hoping to uncover and achieve? By setting clear cut goals, you’ll make the process much less overwhelming.

Some common goals might include

  • Market research
  • Competitor analysis
  • Lead generation
  • SEO improvement
  • Customer service

By outlining your goals, you’ll be able to inform all proceeding actions, use your time and resource efficiently, and achieve your goals even faster.

Let’s look a little closer and how you to maximise a social listening strategy and drive further campaigns and social activity in the right direction.

Identify keywords, topics and mentions

But not in the traditional sense. Target key words that pertain to the conversations you’re trying to find as a way of identifying topics being discussed amongst users. For example, if you’re a recruitment business in Bedfordshire, start by looking for terms such as ‘jobs’, ‘Bedford’, ‘employment’ and ‘recruitment agency’.

There’s no right or wrong way to do this, but by starting with those top layer topics, you’ll begin to peel back layers as you get deeper into that valuable little world of threads, hashtags and mentions. You might even wish to search on your competitors’ pages. Which keywords are recurring in customer comments and questions?

Where are what are they interacting with?

What channels are your followers most likely to interact with your brand and each other? Which type of content are they commenting on and what reactions does this garner?

This insight will help you build the right content for the right platforms, and of course, spread your resource wisely across the preferred platforms rather than wasting time on content or with platforms that don’t appeal to your targeted audiences.

Identify business opportunities

Consistent social listening means you’re always ready to seize an opportunity when it arrives. This comes with being active and present. You must continuously engage with your channels to identify challenges, gaps in the market or the frustrations and needs of your followers. Many businesses use social listening to informing further innovation of a product or service. Remember, this is essentially free market research!

Find people who are unhappy with your product or service

That said, you can also use your social listening strategy to find customers who are unhappy with your product or service, and by publicly helping them and resolving the issue (and quickly) build a better reputation around your customer service.

Another option is (if appropriate) to approach those customers via a replying or messaging function and ask them to provide you with constructive feedback as to how you could’ve done better. Having first-hand insight into your customer’s expectations is like gold dust to any business strategy.      

Converse with customers

Customers like brands who respond. According the Sprout Social, 83% of customers like when brands respond and 68% like it when brands join in conversations.

By conversing with customers, you’ll quickly identify recurring questions, comments and terminology which can be recorded and used to inform further strategies. They want to feel heard and for millennials in particular, social media is often the preferred platform to air frustrations, ask questions and resolve issues with a product or service.

Social listening also allows you to uncover trends over time. TAKE NOTE! These will prove incredibly valuable when building future marketing and social strategies.

Social listening helps you to create content your customers actually want. It enables businesses to identify opportunities, carry out accurate market research and improve the overall customer experience. If a robust social media strategy isn’t yet part of your marketing activities, social listening across competitor platforms is a great place to start. What are potential customers talking about, complaining about or asking? Can you position your content to resolve those challenges and answer those questions?

Let us know if you are already participating in any of the above activities and how they fare for your business. Or, get in touch if you’d like to step up your social strategy and maximise your results.

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